Syrian restaurant Soufi’s to reopen Friday after closing due to hate messages, death threats

The Syrian owners of a Toronto restaurant they closed after receiving death threats and hate messages say they will reopen Friday with help from another business.

Husam Al-Soufi made the announcement Thursday at a news conference. He was joined by Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih inside Soufi’s, a downtown eatery in Toronto’s downtown Queen Street West neighbourhood.

Fakih pledged to help the Al-Soufis reopen the restaurant, saying the family would retain ownership and all profits.

“We’re going to send a message that hate will never win in Canada,” said Fakih.

During the news conference, Al-Soufi said the decision to close “came from a place of fear.”

He said an outpouring of support following the closure inspired him to reverse that decision.

“We just want it all to end and to live in peace again,” Al-Soufi added.

The family said it started receiving the threats — which Toronto police are set to investigate — after their eldest son protested outside a September event in Hamilton featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

The event became a source of controversy when people protesting Bernier’s presence were seen physically blocking and verbally abusing Dorothy Marston, a senior trying to enter the venue.

The Al-Soufis confirmed in a statement that their son, Alaa, was at the protest to stand up against oppression, but also regrets what happened to Marston.

“That said, he did not in any way verbally or physically assault the elderly woman, and has nonetheless offered to apologize personally for not doing more,” the statement said. 

Husam Al-Soufi, the owner of Soufi’s, said the family has received hundreds of positive messages after announcing the restaurant’s closure. (Ellen Mauro/CBC)

Despite the family’s appeals, it received numerous violent and racist online threats. Those threats, they said, potentially put them, their staff and patrons in danger, and therefore they had no choice but to close.

Al-Soufi invited Marston and her family to visit the restaurant in hopes of repairing any lingering damage.

“I pray that this will happen,” he said.

Fakih, whose Paramount Foods eateries have popped up across the Greater Toronto Area, previously also faced online hatred.

Last May, he won a $2.5-million lawsuit against a former Mississauga, Ont., mayoral candidate who made, as the judge described, “hateful Islamophobic” comments against him in an online video. 


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